Thirty-two years ago this week, India started Operation Cactus to assist the Maldives as the country faced its worst challenge yet: a mercenary coup. The mission, which will be permanently carved in the India-Maldives history of close cooperation, demonstrates how the Indian Navy played a key role, particularly in the security and stability of the Indian Ocean region.
Around 200 to 300 armed mercenaries landed in the country’s capital on the night of November 2nd and 3rd, 1988, taking vital installations. Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the Maldives’ president at the time, requested assistance from New Delhi and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
The Indian Army’s para brigade, which arrived with IL 76, quickly brought the situation on the Indian Ocean Island under control. Even yet, the most difficult portion of the mission was the mid-ocean chase and rescue. The mercenaries, headed by Abdulla Luthufee, departed with hostages, including a Maldivian government minister, on the MV Progress lite. The training ship Tir and the frigate Godavari of the Indian navy were diverted to the country. Godavari’s commanding commander was the CTF—Commander Task Force.